Chinese Internet writer sentenced to 12 years

A Chinese Internet writer was jailed for 12 years today for "subversion of state power" after backing a movement by exiled dissidents to hold free elections, his lawyer said.

Yang Tianshui, 45, who has been in custody since last December, did not plan to appeal, a protest against a trial he felt was illegal, his lawyer, Li Jianqiang, said.

"We expected the result, but we are still dissatisfied because he is innocent," Li told Reuters.

It was one of the heaviest prison terms meted out in recent years to an Internet writer. Writer Shi Tao was sentenced last April to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets abroad.

Yang is one of several Internet writers and journalists being tried this month, amid what analysts say is a tightening of controls on media and freedom of expression.

Yang was charged after posting essays on the Internet in support of the "Velvet Action of China", a movement named for the "Velvet Revolution" that peacefully overthrew communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia.

He was also accused of illegally receiving overseas financial assistance and plotting to form provincial chapters of the outlawed China Democracy Party.

Yang, who was tried in the coastal province of Jiangsu, refused to answer questions from the prosecutor or judge, his lawyer said.

A member of the China chapter of International PEN, the movement founded to defend freedom of expression, Yang has a history of coming up against China's communist rulers.

He previously served 10 years on "counter-revolution" charges for condemning the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators on Tiananmen Square, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. He was released in 2000.

The tough sentence comes a day after the lawyer for New York Times researcher Zhao Yan said the case against him had been revived, dashing hopes for his imminent release. He has been held since September 2004.

Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said he did not know what charges were on the new bill of indictment or whether a date had been set for trial.

China was the leading jailer of journalists in 2005 for the seventh consecutive year, the Committee to Protect Journalists says.

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